Experiencing the Surge: Report From a Large New York Radiation Oncology Department During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Michael Buckstein, Samantha Skubish, Kimberly Smith, Irene Braccia, Sheryl Green, Kenneth Rosenzweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting all aspects of life and changing the practice of medicine. Multiple recommendations exist on how radiation oncology practices should deal with this crisis, but little information is available on what actually happens when the COVID-19 surge arrives. New York City experienced the first surge of COVID-19 in the United States and is now the epicenter of the global pandemic. This study reviews how COVID-19 has affected aspects of medicine, nursing, radiation therapy, and administration in a hospital system in New York. Methods and Materials: A retrospective review was conducted of the department of radiation oncology in a single health system in New York from March 1, 2020, to April 1, 2020. Collaboration was obtained from physicians, nurses, radiation therapy staff, and administration to recall their policies and effect on specific duties. A timeline was reconstructed to chronicle significant events. Numbers were obtained for patients on treatment, treatment breaks, and COVID-19 infections among staff and patients. Results: The COVID-19 surge has had a tremendous effect on the health system, such as cessation of all of surgeries, including oncologic surgery, and transfer of all inpatient oncology services to makeshift outpatient facilities. Radiation oncology has made aggressive efforts to reduce the number of patients in treatment to protect patients and staff and to reallocate staff and space for more acute clinical needs. Patients on-beam were reduced by 27% from 172 to 125 by April 1. Almost all visits were changed to telemedicine within 2 weeks. Infection rates and quarantine were quite low among staff and patients. The majority of residents were deployed into COVID-19 clinical settings. Conclusions: Although we “planned for the worst,” our health system was able to make necessary changes to still function at a reduced capacity. Our experience will give other departments a concrete experience to help them make their own policies and manage expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-616
Number of pages7
JournalAdvances in Radiation Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


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